Summertime is in full bloom on this week's Cooking with Stanley post. Tomato season is here and these dishes use plenty of them. Seasonal cooking really is the best because produce is at its absolute finest when in season. Do you really want to cook asparagus in winter? No, it's too light and can get bitter. Do you want to roast an acorn squash in the summer time. Absolutely not. It's too heavy for the heat. When you cook with the seasons, not only are you eating the produce at its best, you're probably also eating locally and you're eating meals suited for that time of year. With that said, today's meal is summertime perfection. Even the colors feel like summer. What's great is that these are also dishes that can stand on their own for easy weeknight meals.
1st Course: Ditalini with Peas
2nd Course: Tomato Pesto with Chicken
Dessert: Plum and Polenta Cake
I may have mentioned this before in a post early on in a the series, but Stanley Tucci has little notes before each recipe giving a little backstory of the origin or a memory he has because of the dish. When he was a kid, they used to have Ditalini with Peas for dinner. It was one of their favorites. It really is a great meal for kids because it has everything you pretty much need in it. It's ditalini pasta which is small and tubular with tomato sauce (I used Joan's Basic Tomato Sauce), peas and a little bit of cheese on top. For a heartier and more protein-packed dish, just add some sausage. I loved this dish. I might steal it as an easy go-to for a weeknight when I'm not feeling inspired to cook.
The tomato pesto with Chicken looks much heavier than it actually is. For starters the pesto is a combination of basil, parsley, garlic, olive oil and tomatoes. That's it. No Cream is involved whatsoever. It's room temperature, but can be warmed if desired. Stanley recommends pairing the Tomato Pesto with fish or pasta. I changed it up a bit and paired it with baked chicken seasoned with salt, pepper and Italian seasoning. I accidentally overcooked the chicken because I was dealing with a brand new, faulty food processor that wouldn't start so it was a tad dry. The pesto made up for it though. The flavor was incredible and moistened the chicken enough to make it bearable to swallow. My suggestions with the pesto would be to easy up on the garlic at first. Start with one or two cloves and then add more to taste. I went all in with four cloves and had to balance it out with extra tomatoes because it had a serious bite to it.
Last but very not least, my first dessert in about six weeks a Plum and Polenta Cake. This cake was pretty simple to make. The four egg yolks were a bit gross to separate but I got over that quick. Before you think this is a super thick cake made completely of polenta, it's not. It's more like cornbread with lemon and halved plums throughout the entire cake. It was actually really good. I managed to make it in only one bowl. I'm sure mixing the dry ingredients is a step for a reason but I was not feeling more dishes than necessary. This would be even better with a thick chocolate drizzle over the top. Imagining that now is making my sweet tooth act up...